Becoming Superhuman

Posts tagged food

How to Cook Anything...Paleo, of course!

I think it’s pretty safe to say that if you’re doing this paleo diet thing the right way then you’re going to be cooking more than you ever have in your life.

It’s inevitable.  If you really want to know what is going in your mouth, then you need to do most of your shopping and cooking yourself. But just because cooking is something that we HAVE to do, doesn’t mean we can’t enjoy it. 

In fact, it can be one of the most fun and rewarding parts of going paleo.

Just think about it.  Anyone can make something taste good when their pulling from the entire ingredients list of the standard American diet.  Its no surprise that if you add lots of sugar, flour, and butter to a recipe that the end result is going to taste pretty damn good!  Try one of Paula Deen’s recipes and you will know exactly what I mean.  (I have nothing against butter….or Paula Deen, for that matter.)

But cooking from a shortened list of Paleo ingredients requires a lot more skill and creativity.  You can’t just pop a Digiornio pizza in the microwave and call it a vegetable. (Although our government might say otherwise.)

A lot of times you will be required to make dishes that you have only had in restaurants, or work with foods that you’ve never tasted or even seen before.  (I feel like I am setting up an episode of Chopped!)

So how do you do it?  How do you cook something if you’ve never done it or seen it done before?

I’m about to tell you.  But first I need you to realize something.

Failure in cooking is inevitable.

You will undercook, burn, under-season, and over-season foods at some point.  You will make soup when your goal is to make a casserole, and you will make a casserole when your goal is to make soup.  Some food will end up in the garbage, and some food that should end up in the garbage will still reluctantly make its way into your mouth.

Our goal is not to eliminate failure but to accept it as feedback.  You didn’t ruin your eggs, you just learned how NOT to make them.  You didn’t poison your friends with too much seasoning (at least I hope not), you just learned that a little bit of salt and pepper goes a long way.

Trying new things and learning how to fail is one of the most important skills anyone can have in their life.  And cooking just happens to be the perfect way to hone that skill.  So don’t be afraid to try new foods and recipes and fail miserably.  Just make sure you have some cans of salmon on hand as a backup plan so you don’t go hungry.

Check out an earlier post my brother wrote about Buying Now and Recipe Later.He doesn’t always know what he’s going to do with what he buys, like 10 packages of sardines purchased at Costco, but he knows he wants to eat more of them and will find a way to cook/prepare them when he gets home. Now that I got that out of the way, let’s look at the process I use to cook a new food or recipe for the first time.  

Step 1:  Find at least 2-3 recipes online for the dish you are looking to make.

I suggest finding both a paleo/primal recipe, one standard or non-paleo recipe, and a third one that falls into either category.  It may seem counterintuitive, but I purposely seek out non-paleo recipes whenever I am working with new foods.  It gives you more recipes to choose from, and a lot of non-paleo recipes are pretty paleo except for one or two non-paleo ingredients that can easily be removed or replaced. You can find some awesome Paleo recipes at FastPaleo.

When I bought butternut squash for the first time earlier this week at the farmer’s market, the first thing I did was google “butternut squash recipe”, “primal butternut squash”, and “paleo butternut squash”.  The ratings and reviews for each recipe were available right away in the search results so I was able to weed out the worst recipes without even opening them.   You should select 2-3 of the recipes that you find and move on to step 2. You can also find some great recipe ideas by searching through the pretty pictures on Pinterest. 

Step 2: Look for patterns in cooking times, temperatures, and techniques.

Your goal is to find consistency.  If you’re trying to bake kale chips for the first time and one recipe recommends cooking for 10-12 minutes at 375 degrees, another recommends 12-15 minutes at 350 degrees, and a third recommends 10-15 minutes at 325 degrees, then it’s pretty safe to say that baking your kale chips for 12 minutes at 350 degrees is going to make for some pretty awesome kale chips.

Temperatures, cooking times, and techniques will usually vary based on cooking appliances and personal preferences of each chef, but you can usually find enough consistency between recipes to make a suitable version the first time out.  If there’s a necessary step that you can’t think of on your own (like poking holes in your sweet potato before you microwave it), there’s a good chance it will show up in at least 2 of the 3 recipes that you find.  

Step 3: Look for consistencies in flavor combinations.

A lot of recipes call for long lists of spices or additional ingredients that may or may not be 100% necessary to the final outcome.  You may find a homemade spaghetti sauce that contains onions, garlic, basil, thyme, oregano, rosemary, olive oil, canned tomatoes, diced tomatoes, and peppers, but once you compare it to other recipes you will likely find that the most common ingredients are tomatoes, garlic, and basil, and you can make an acceptable spaghetti sauce with just those 3 ingredients.  If your new to cooking and worried about spending too much money, or time in the kitchen, your much better off sticking to these basic flavor combinations instead of trying to buy every single ingredient for every recipe.  

Step 4: Create an action plan and start cooking.

Once you have done the research and determined patterns, you should have a good idea of what needs to be done to create an awesome final product.  Try to use only ONE of the recipes to guide you step-by-step through the process and make notes for changes you need to make based on the information you found in steps 2 and 3.

These extra 5 minutes of research should make cooking more enjoyable, reduce your number of ruined meals, and expedite your cooking education.  

Your mission this week is to cook at least one food or recipe that you have never made before.   Let me know what new foods you tried and how the recipes came out.


Mmmm....Grass-fed Beef!

If anybody’s interested, US Wellness is offering 15% off Grass-fed beef orders with discount code ‘bread’. I placed a big order for burgers with them a few weeks ago and can’t stop eating them. 32 packages of 75% lean burgers came out to $5.70 per lb including tax and shipping(ships overnight). Way cheaper than I can find at Whole Foods or even at Farmers Markets.


Creamy Buffalo Chicken Thighs with Celery

As I am sure most former and current college students do, my friends and I had a list of go-to food stops for every night we had one too many beers to drink. 7-Eleven was a popular choice for their obvious variety of food, as well as their hot, pressed sandwiches (not to mention we could buy more beer there), but the king of all late night foods was Billy’s wings.

I say Billy’s wings as if everyone in the world would know what I am talking about, but the truth is most people outside of the ghetto in North Miami have never heard of Billy’s. Billy’s is the type of hole-in-the-wall bar where you wake up the next morning and wonder if you should wash your clothes or just throw them in the garbage. I have still never been to a bar that comes close to competing with the stale smell of smoke that exuded from Billy’s in its prime. It’s not exactly the oasis most people dream of when they think of great food, but maybe the smoke is what made the wings taste so damn good.

Ever since my first bite of Billy’s wings in my freshman year of college, wings have become one of those foods that I just seem to crave on a regular basis. It was sad after 4 years of college realizing that my wing consumption would dramatically decrease as I moved out of the ghetto and into the real world. You can imagine my excitement when less than a year later, I bought a condo and ended up within a mile of another great hole-in-the-wall bar named Billy’s. This Billy’s was completely unrelated to the first, and way less smoky, but their wings were just as amazing.

Some may say it’s a coincidence that two of the dirtiest bars I have ever been to have had the two best chicken wing recipes, but I truly believe that people named Billy are just born to make good wings.

I am sure this recipe is much healthier than the ones that I was getting at the bar, but I think it would make Billys all over the world proud. I hope you enjoy it.

Ingredients:

(I like to cook in bulk)

5 lbs of Boneless, Skinless Chicken Thighs (you could use wings but don’t bother with breasts)

1 Can of Coconut Milk

3/4 Cup - 1 Cup Hot Sauce (Depending on how much heat you like, I like Frank’s Original Hot)

3 to 4 Tablespoons of Dijon Mustard

Handful of Peeled Garlic

Salt and pepper

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.

Spread the chicken thighs across an aluminum foil-lined baking sheet and cook in the oven for 30-40 minutes.

While your chicken is in the oven, mix the coconut milk, hot sauce, dijon mustard, and garlic in a food processor or blender.

After a few seconds of blending, transfer the sauce to a large skillet and simmer on low heat until the chicken thighs are cooked.

Once the chicken thighs are fully cooked, transfer them into the pan with the sauce and toss around until all thighs are coated evenly with the hot sauce. Add salt and pepper to taste.

Serve with celery and/or sliced avocado and enjoy! Light a cigarette and place it next to you for the full shitty bar experience.


michael symon sobe wff

This past weekend I had an amazing opportunity to attend the 2012 South Beach Wine and Food Festival. It was the 5th time I have been lucky enough to go to the festival and every year I am blown away by the quantity and the quality of the food.

The festival is gluttony at its finest. You pay a single entrance fee to get into each event and the events usually consist of 4-6 hours of consuming as much free food and booze as you can possibly shove in your face. To give you a little taste of what I mean, my favorite dishes included stone crab claws, fried oreos, cookies and cream macaroons, a wagyu beef burger, truffle artichoke soup, a ginger curry milkshake, and plenty of alcohol to wash it all down.

But as amazing as the food was, that’s not what this post is about. One of the coolest parts about the festival is that you get to see live cooking demos hosted by some of today’s most famous celebrity chefs. I have loved the Food Network ever since I first started watching Emeril Live instead of doing my homework back in middle school, so this is a part of the festival that I always look forward to most.

As much as I was trying to avoid thinking about eating healthy all weekend, the last place I expected to hear about it was at Iron Chef Michael Symon’s cooking demo. Maybe it was the recent Paula Deen Diabetes announcement that urged him to speak out, regardless, his message was right on point. As he grilled a rack of pork chops and balsamic peaches, he educated the audience about the importance of eating real food, especially fat. He said, “Fat is not making you fat. ‘Low-fat’, ‘reduced-calorie’, ‘skim’ products ARE making you fat. I guarantee it.” While my slight intoxication may have caused me to alter the exact translation, this was his message in more or less words. It was a very refreshing message to hear, especially from such an unexpected source.

While I wouldn’t consider most Food Network chefs to be the best source of nutritional information, it does seem like most successful chefs have a pretty good feel for what constitutes real food. Maybe it is because their profession forces them to know where their food is coming from instead of thinking that food is something that magically appears on a plate in a restaurant.

I think it is fairly safe to say that we could all benefit from having a better connection to where our food comes from and how it gets on our plate. Anthony Bourdain went as far as to say that he thinks everyone should be required by law to know how to cook an omelette and roast a chicken. He was probably referring more to the morning after then he was to eating healthy but the point came across nevertheless.

It is nice to know that more and more people are spreading good information about how to live a healthy lifestyle, even if it’s not from the so-called experts. I would sum things up like this… Know where your food comes from. Love to cook. And eat real food, especially fat.

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I’ve learned a lot in the last year about how to shop for healthy foods. At first, I thought eating healthy just meant going into the nearest grocery store and reading nutrition labels. Over the last year, I have been convinced that there is a lot more to it than that.

Shopping for healthy foods is a skill. It is a skill that you can practice and it is a skill that you can improve. Here are 8 ways to improve your healthy food shopping and save you money in the process.

1) Go to Farmers Markets

There’s a reason why farmer’s markets are # 1 on this list. Buying your produce from farmer’s markets can easily cut your grocery bill in half. I inserted a picture of my receipt from my last trip to the market a few days ago. Some highlights from the bill include 3 lbs of bananas for $1.49, 4 cucumbers for $1, $1 per avocado, or how about 14 cents per jalapeno. It has gotten to the point where I will try to buy more food on purpose just to see how much I can possibly spend, and I still can’t break the $50 mark when I shop there. This same amount of food at Whole Foods would have cost me over $100. Farmer’s markets are everywhere and finding a good one is the best thing you can do to save money on food.

farmers market receipt

2) Review your receipts

Most fresh food is sold by weight, so unless you are walking around the grocery store carrying a scale, it can be difficult to compare prices of foods that weigh different amounts. Take the receipt from the farmer’s market that you see above. The sweet potatoes that I purchased were priced at 99 cents/lb. I used to buy those same sweet potatoes at $2.29/lb at Whole Foods. $2.29 for a pound of sweet potatoes always sounded like a pretty good price to me, but that’s because I didn’t have any reference point to go off of. Once I started looking at my receipts and realized that I was buying between 3 and 6 lbs of sweet potatoes on a weekly basis, it became clear how big that difference really was. This meant that 6 lbs of sweet potatoes would cost me $13.74 at Whole Foods and only $5.94 at the farmer’s market. Seeing this $13.74 price next to the bunch of bananas that only cost me $2 really taught me the value of comparing prices even after your done shopping. Or imagine how big that difference would be on the 8 lbs of spaghetti squash that I bought. Reading receipts may not help you save money on your last bill, but it will certainly help you save on the next one.

3) Focus on Cheap Staples

No matter how much prices vary over time, certain foods just always seem to be cheap. Take eggs for instance. I spend less than $20 per week on a total of 72 eggs for our 3-person household. Sure, I may have to absorb dirty looks from everyone who walks by me in Whole Foods, but that’s a small price to pay for having such a nutritious food for less than $1 per meal. The same can be said for chicken thighs, ground beef, canned fish, and frozen fruits and vegetables. Make these foods the focus of your weekly shopping, and it will be difficult to overspend on your total bill.

4) Buy Sale Items in Bulk

Fresh food goes bad. Whenever stores have an abundant supply of fresh food, they are forced to discount it so most of it doesn’t end up in the trash. You see this a lot with things like seafood. Seafood has such a short shelf life that it is almost guaranteed that there will be a few seafood items on sale every week. Don’t be afraid to stock up on sale items and throw some in the freezer for a later date. Add these sale items to the cheap staples you already have from number 3 and you should be well on your way to an inexpensive week of shopping.

5) Be Flexible

While it’s good to have a grocery list for items that are necessities, shopping without a grocery list can save you a lot of money. Instead of setting my meal plan for the week ahead of time, I like to let the store do it for me. If pork or beef is cheap this week, then it looks like we will be eating a lot of that. If avocados are cheap, then guacamole will probably happen in the next couple days. Don’t get your heart set on making something before you get to the store. You will just end up overpaying for foods that you could get for less money on another day. Be flexible with your meal plan and your wallet will thank you.

6) Utilize Multiple Stores

It’s amazing how much prices can vary from store to store. In any given month, I will shop at Costco, Publix, Whole Foods, and several different farmers markets at least once. Sure, I am lucky enough to have all of these stores within 10 minutes of my house, but I think everyone can take advantage of multiple stores with a little planning and effort. Shopping at multiple stores taught me that the same jar of almond butter that cost over $15 at Publix, only cost me $6 at Costco. I also learned that Whole Foods has ridiculously expensive prices on most fruits and vegetables, but that their prices on eggs, grass-fed beef, chicken, and frozen produce are extremely reasonable. Rotate your shopping trips between different stores to get the best deals from each one.

7) Don’t Obsess over Organic, Grass-fed, or Free-range

Quality sources of food are preferred because it’s better for your health and its better for the environment, but don’t obsess over every single choice you have to make. If organic bananas are 3 times the price of conventional bananas, then buy the conventional ones. If they are having a sale on organic beef, but it is not grass-fed, don’t feel bad about skipping the grass-fed and saving a little bit of money this time. Try to make the majority of your grocery shopping from local, quality sources, and take advantage of the cost savings when the price difference becomes too great.

8) Utilize Amazon.com

Despite a recent debacle over a tea tumbler that I purchased for my girlfriend, I have had nothing but good experiences through Amazon. Most products ship for free and arrive to your doorstep within a few days. I have consistently used Amazon for things like shredded coconut, coconut milk, canned tuna, and canned sardines. Amazon sells in huge quantities, so they usually end up being much cheaper per unit than what you could buy them for in the grocery store. The 54 oz tub of Nutiva Organic Coconut Oil is the cheapest I have found anywhere and it taste so good that I refuse to buy coconut oil from anywhere else.

While I wouldn’t quite put myself in the same category as the people from Extreme Couponing, I have become pretty adept at getting the most bang for my buck. Once you harness your skills as a shopper, it won’t be long before eating healthy will be a lot cheaper than eating unhealthy ever was.


Why I Buy Grass-Fed Beef.

If you would have mentioned “grass-fed beef” to me a few years ago, I would have looked at you like you were crazy. What is grass-fed beef? How is this different from any other beef that I buy? Aren’t cows supposed to eat grass? Does grass-fed beef taste better or something? Can’t I just buy whatever beef is cheaper?

It wasn’t until I started to take the paleo diet seriously that I decided to do research on grass-fed beef and figure out what the hell that term actually meant.

It turns out that grass-fed beef means exactly what it states. It refers to cows that have eaten grass for most or all of their lives. If you are wondering if cows are supposed to eat grass the answer is yes. Their digestive systems are designed in a way to allow them to thrive on grasses and plant vegetation.

This all seems pretty simple, but if cows are supposed to eat grass, then why do we have a special name for grass-fed beef? Why don’t we just call it “beef”?  

Most Beef is Grain-Fed

It is estimated that 99% of US beef cattle are fed corn and soybeans at some point in their lives. Grass may be a cow’s natural diet, but using grains as a replacement allows beef suppliers to raise full grown cattle in nearly half the time. What would normally take 2-3 years for a pastured cow to get up to slaughter weight only takes 14 months on a grain-based diet (hmm…that seems to work on humans too). Also, because corn and soybeans are large subsidized crops of the US government, beef from grain-fed cows can be sold for close to half the price of their grass-fed counterparts.

Grain-fed beef is clearly cheaper and easier to produce, so what’s all the fuss about grass-fed then?  

3 Reasons Why I Buy Grass-Fed Beef

1) Grass-Fed Beef is More Nutritious

When compared to conventionally raised beef, grass-fed beef has higher level of Omega 3 fats, CLA, Vitamins A and E, as well as several antioxidants including glutathione and superoxide dismutase.

2) Grass-Fed Beef is Safer

Factory farming can lead to all sorts of problems. In 2003, a cow in Washington State tested positive for mad cow disease and it was later discovered that it was being fed meat and bones made from other cows (ewww!). Grass fed cows have also been shown to have far less instances of E. Coli. In order to combat the higher rates of disease in conventionally raised beef, 25 million pounds of antibioticsare used every year.

3) Grass-Fed Beef is Better For the Environment

In 2006, The U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization released a report that attributed 18% of the world’s man made greenhouse-gas emissions to livestock. But most of that carbon footprint is the result of factory farming’s reliance on grains as a nutrition source. Many farmers believe that when cows are grass-fed and rotated between different pastures, they actually become carbon negative, meaning they contribute more back into the land then they consume.

This knowledge, combined with some of the images of factory farming shown in Food Inc., are more than enough to convince me to buy grass-fed beef whenever I can find it. Yes, it can be more expensive and difficult to find, but at least I don’t have to hunt and kill the cow myself.

I think it’s also important for people to realize that every purchase you make in a store is like casting a vote. When you consistently purchase grass-fed beef (as well as wild caught fish, and organic produce), you are proving to food manufacturers that quality food and animal practices are important in your buying decisions. Small decision like these can eventually mean huge differences in the environment and your health.


Spicy Coco-Lime Kale Chips!

Some recipes sound a lot harder than they actually are.

This is one of them.

Maybe it’s the fact that a lot of people haven’t heard of kale or don’t know what it looks like. Maybe it’s because making chips out of a vegetable sounds like a complex and tedious endeavor. Whatever it is, kale chips don’t deserve the difficult reputation that most novice cooks associate with them.

They are one of the easiest and tastiest recipes I have ever tried. They’re so easy in fact, that I am kind of upset with myself that it took me over 6 months of eating Paleo to finally give them a shot. 

I guess what I am trying to say is, don’t make the same mistake that I did. Once you take your first crunchy bite of these chips, you will want to make them a weekly staple just as I have. Here’s a great recipe to pop your kale chips cherry!  

Ingredients:

1 Bushel of Kale

2 TBSP Coconut Oil (melted)

1 Lime (Juiced)

Garlic salt, pepper, and cayenne

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Grab the stem of each kale leaf and slide your other hand down the stem to separate the leaves from the stem.

Break up the separated leaves into large chip size pieces and toss in a large bowl.

Pour the coconut oil, lime juice, and seasoning onto the kale and use your hands to toss it like a salad.

Spread the seasoned kale pieces evenly on 2 large aluminum foil lined baking sheets and bake at 350 degrees for 12-14 minutes.

Remove from the oven and you can start eating them immediately!

Other Noteworthy Tips:

1) Don’t overdress the kale. A little oil/vinegar/juice goes a long way. Use extra spices for flavor, not extra dressing.

2) The kale will shrink in the oven so make the pieces larger than normal chips.

3) The kale can be touching but not overlapping on the baking sheet. Too much overlap will make the kale soggy. You will probably need at least 2 large baking sheets just for one bushel.  

This recipe is very specific but kale chips can be made with just about any oil/vinegar combination and seasonings. Play around with different combinations to come up with your own personal favorite!


Homemade Apple Sauce!

Certain foods just go well together…Peanut butter and jelly, beer and chicken wings, or my personal non-Paleo favorite, Oreo cookies and milk!

While they may be delicious, none of those pairings quite fit the bill for a Superhuman approved meal.  But there is one combination that does. 

Pork and Apple Sauce!

The sweetness and moisture of the apples is the perfect sidekick for the relative dryness of a pork chop or pork loin.  It’s one of those meals that reminds you of being a kid at home again. 

But instead of resorting to store-bought apple sauces that are loaded with sugar and artificial ingredients, it’s just as easy to make your own at home. 

Here’s how to do it…

Homemade Apple Sauce

Ingredients:

5 Apples

2 Tbsp Grass-Fed Butter or Macadamia Oil

Cinnamon and Salt

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. 

Cut the apples into slices or large cubes and spread across a tin foil covered baking sheet.

Melt the butter in a small cup for about 30 seconds in the microwave.  Pour the butter over the top of the chopped apples and use your hands to toss it all together. 

Sprinkle the apples with cinnamon and salt

Bake in the oven for 40 minutes on 400 degrees, or until apples are soft completely through.  I like to sauté the pork chops in a pan while the apples are in the oven so everything is ready to eat at the same time. 

Puree apples in a food processer until you reach the desired consistency of apple sauce.

Pair with your favorite pork dish or even eat the apples on their own for a great replacement for apple pie. 


The Best Tool For Fat Loss You Are Not Using

“Eat 6 times a day to keep your metabolism high.”

“Breakfast is the most important meal of the day.”

“You should be eating every 2-3 hours.”

“A good pre-workout meal is important for maximizing your workout.”

“A big post-workout meal is necessary for recovery.”

“You should be eating MORE whole grains, MORE low-fat dairy, MORE fruits and vegetables….”

If we are told that we are fat because we EAT TOO MUCH and EXERCISE TOO LITTLE, then how come most of the specific dietary advice that you hear revolves around eating more food, more often. We understand that we need to eat less overall to lose weight, but no one seems to ask the question…”How are we supposed to eat LESS, by eating MORE?”

The Thermic Effect of Food. How Food Impacts Your Metabolism.

Does eating food really stoke the metabolic fire? Yes, actually. Every time you take a bite of food your metabolism increases in order to digest, store, and utilize that food. This is known as the Thermic Effect of Food (TEF).

What food companies don’t want you to know though is that this thermic effect is based off the total number of calories ingested, not the timing of those calories. The TEF is the same whether you consume 2000 calories in one meal or 2000 calories in 6 meals. If you consume 2400 calories instead of 2000 calories in a single day, the TEF will be higher, but the additional TEF will not come close to making up for the extra 400 calories that you just ingested.

Don’t believe me? Here are 3 research studies that determined meal timing had no effect on metabolic rate or increased weight loss: Here, here, and here.

And here’s another studythat found that your metabolic rate wouldn’t even decrease after 72-hours straight of not eating! One of the other findings of the study was metabolic rate actually INCREASES after 36-hours straight of no food. It makes you wonder why you ever bothered to try to eat every couple hours in the first place.

Now that we’re armed with this knowledge, let’s see how we can use it to our advantage, welcome Intermittent Fasting.  

What is Intermittent Fasting?

Wikipedia defines Intermittent fasting (IF) as a pattern of eating that alternates between periods of fasting (usually meaning consumption of water only) and periods of non-fasting. I like to think of IF as ‘eating a lot of food when you are hungry, and abstaining from food when you are not hungry’, but there is certainly more strategy and science to it than that.  

What Intermittent Fasting is Not.

IF is not starving yourself. It is not the anorexic teenager that eats 500 calories a day in an effort to get as skinny as possible. It is not extreme, and can actually be incorporated into just about any diet and way of life. Many of the benefits of IF can be achieved without decreasing average or total caloric intake.  

Why Haven’t I Heard More About Intermittent Fasting?

The best explanation is that there’s no financial gain for businesses to tell you to eat less. 10 billion dollars are spent every year to do the exact opposite, to advertise and promote food, so food companies will do whatever it takes to get us to eat more food, more often.

Americans are now consuming 23% more calories (almost 2700 calories) per day than we were in 1970 and our obesity rates have more than doubledover that 30-year time frame. I can’t even imagine the financial impact this has had for packaged food companies like Nestle, PepsiCo, Kraft, and General Mills. There’s big business in convincing an American public that they need to eat every 2 hours, and very little financial benefit from educating people about Intermittent Fasting.  

The Benefits of Intermittent Fasting: Fat Loss, Muscle Retention, and The Fountain of Youth.

”Every living creature since the beginning of time has gone hungry now and then. Intermittent fasting is embedded in our metabolism.” Art De Vany, in the The New Evolution Diet

IF and Fat Loss:

Insulin is one of the key hormones that effects whether we burn fat or store fat. When insulin is high, we are in storage mode, when insulin is low, we are in burning mode. Fasting for only 24 hours was able to bring insulin levels down more than 70%. Reducing insulin is a necessary component of weight loss, and just as important for avoiding diseases related to chronically high insulin, like diabetes.

IF and Muscle Retention:

This study compared fasting with a regular calorie restrictive diet. What they found was the fasting group actually was able to burn more fat, and retain more muscle than just a normal calorie restrictive diet. Another studyshowed that just 3, 30-minute resistance training exercises per week was all that was necessary to not lose any muscle mass while still dropping body fat.

IF and the Fountain of Youth:

The most impressive finding for IF is its effect on growth hormone. Growth hormone has been popularized for everything from fat loss to anti-aging, and it seems to be the real deal. This studyactually showed a 5-fold increase in growth hormone production after only 24 hours of fasting.  

Why I Love Intermittent Fasting.

I have always been a fat kid at heart. If the average male thinks about sex every 7 seconds, well the average fat kid (aka me) thinks about food every 3 seconds. So about 10 years ago, when magazines and books started to convince me that eating smaller meals, 6 times a day, would help me burn fat, I thought my prayers were answered. I could finally have my cake and eat it too, except for my cake looked more like chalky protein bars, sugar-filled yogurts, and lots of packaged grain products.

Over the years, I became a master of eating small meals every 2-3 hours. I was the poster boy for keeping my metabolism high. I ate first thing in the morning, I ate before workouts and after workouts, I ate 6 times a day, and I ate lots of complex carbs and low-fat dairy. I wouldn’t even leave the house for more than an hour without figuring out where my next meal or snack was coming from. I was so great at eating every 2-3 hours, my friends even gave me the nickname “snacks” (true story).

But I would soon realize that what I thought was a balanced diet, was really just a false sense of control. You don’t give a drug addict their favorite drug and tell them to moderate the dose. My results were not even that good to show for it.

About a year ago, I was introduced to a concept called intermittent fasting and EVERYTHING changed. I went from eating 5-6 times a day, then 4-5 times a day, then 3-4 times a day, and now I rarely eat more than 3 times in a single day. I was burning fat and building muscle at a rate I had never experienced in my entire life and it felt easier than it ever had.

**This also happened to coincide with a lot of the paleo principles I was adapting at the same time, so the combination of reducing wheat and sugar in my diet with intermittent fasting was a complete turnaround.**

The funny part is, I actually felt like I was eating MORE food than ever before. When I would sit down, I would eat a ton of food, and actually feel full after. Something I had never really experienced in the previous 10 years, except for the occasional binge that left me feeling just as sick as it did full. And because I wasn’t worried about my metabolism stopping or losing all of my muscle, I could easily go 5, 6, 7, or even 24 hours without having to think about or worry about my next meal.

It had extra benefits that I didn’t even consider until after I had experienced them. The quality of my food got better because I no longer had to rely on packaged foods, nuts, and fruit to get me through the day. I could take more time to cook a good meal, because I knew I only had 2 or 3 meals to make instead of 6. Food started to taste better because I was actually hungry when I was eating instead of mindlessly shoving food in my face. I even became more productive since I wasn’t wasting all my time trying to figure out where my next snack was coming from.

**I actually didn’t even come across this studyuntil recently, but this validated all of the things that I was experiencing. Eating more often, even when total calories are equal, actually makes us feel hungrier. **  

How to Get Started with Intermittent Fasting.

Most of the benefits of intermittent fasting appear to occur somewhere between 12 and 24 hours of straight fasting. The good news is, these hours can coincide with the time you spend sleeping so it’s probably best to time your fast so you will be asleep during the most difficult part.

My favorite resource on intermittent fasting, Eat Stop Eat, advocates a 24 hour fast where you would have your last meal around 6 pm on one day, and then you wouldn’t eat again until 6 pm on the following day. You can repeat this 2-3 times a week until you reach your desired weight and about once a week thereafter. I should mention that even though I love the Eat Stop Eat guide, and do believe there may be additional benefits to a 24-hour fast, I find the LeanGains 16/8 fasting schedule a lot more practical for me.

The 16/8 schedule means for every 24 hours of a day, you are fasting for 16 of them and feeding for 8 of them. This usually means having my first meal at 11 am and my last meal at 7 pm. You can technically eat as often as you want during the 8-hr feeding window, but I have found 2-3 meals during that time to be the most practical. When I first started experimenting with intermittent fasting, I stuck pretty strictly to the 16/8 schedule. I would usually have my first meal post-workout at 10 am, and my last meal of the day would come around 6 pm. It was easy to stick to and the results were great.

These days, I don’t even think about intermittent fasting in the formal sense, all I think about is eating when I am REALLY hungry and not eating when I’m not very hungry. This usually means waiting a few hours after I wake up before I have my first meal and not eating very late at night. But some days I will wake up starving and eat right away and not worry about the fact that I didn’t last the full 16 hour fast. Some days the fast may only be 10 or 12 hours and other days it will be as high as 16-20 hours, but most importantly, I am only eating when I am REALLY hungry. Its actually pretty amazing how often I come close to the 16/8 approach without even really thinking about it.  

I know intermittent fasting may sound like a radical concept in today’s world where there’s always a reason to eat, but it truly is the simplest and most practical dieting strategy that I have ever used. Having food available to us at all hours of the day just doesn’t make sense with our genetic past. If we want to maximize our genetic potential, we need to start working with it, instead of against it.

For more information on Intermittent Fasting, check out Eat Stop Eat and LeanGains.


The Science and Common Sense Behind Why You Should Avoid Bread and Grain-Based Products

If there’s one thing I have realized about spreading the good word of the Paleo Diet, it’s that Americans LOVE their bread. You can take away their ice cream, you can take away their candy, you can even take away their beer, but don’t you dare touch their bread!

I honestly can say that about 80% of the people that I introduce to the Paleo diet will respond with some version of this line, “The diet sounds nice, but you don’t understand, I lllooovvveee bread/pasta way too much to ever go without it.”

I usually respond with some politically correct answer about how they will feel better if they can just go a few weeks without it, but what I am really thinking is…

“No Shit! We all lllooovvveee the taste of bread and pasta!”

The fact that you love the taste of bread, pasta, or any other grain-based products is not some miracle that was bestowed upon you and you alone! We all love breads and pastas, and it’s because of the way wheat reacts in our bodies!

Wheat is Addictive.

If your cravings for your favorite piece of bread or slice of cake feel like an addiction, it’s because you ARE addicted. Gluten, the main protein found in wheat, breaks down into polypeptides that specifically bind to your brain’s morphine receptor. This is the exact receptor for which opiate drugs bind to.

This mechanism is so similar to that of opiate drugs, that Naloxone, the drug used to sober up heroin addicts in the Emergency Room, works just as well to block wheat polypeptides from brain receptors in non-addicts.

What’s wrong with a little high with your sandwich? Nothing. Except for the fact that this euphoric feeling leads to drastically greater calorie intake at every meal without you even realizing it.

“In a study conducted at the Psychiatric Institute of the University of South Carolina, wheat-consuming participants given naloxone consumed 33 percent fewer calories at lunch and 23 percent fewer calories at dinner (a total of approximately 400 calories less over the two meals) than participants given a placebo.“ William Davis, MD, From Wheat Belly

The high from wheat products makes us want to eat MORE and MORE. Just changing the addictive response in our bodies allows us to eat far fewer calories without even changing what we’re eating.

But that’s just part of the story on grains; let’s take a common sense look at some of the products we see throughout our grocery store.

Grains are just one of the Problems with Grain-based products.

Next time you go to the grocery store, take a look at some of the ingredients on the back of the breads, pastas, and cereals you used to buy (Since I know you don’t have any still lying around your house). Even if we were to consider the grains themselves as healthy, almost all grain-based products are loaded with corn syrups, soybean oils, sugars, artificial sweeteners, and a bunch of other ingredients that we can’t recognize or pronounce.

Just look at the ingredients from my favorite “healthy” bread from the past, Nature’s Own 100% Whole Wheat Bread.

Ingredients: Whole Wheat Flour, Water, Sugar, Wheat Gluten, Cane Refinery Syrup, Yeast, Soybean Oil, Salt, Raisin Juice Concentrate, Cultured Wheat Flour, Vinegar, Dough Conditioners (Contains one of more of the following: Sodium Stearoyl Lactylate, Calcium Stearoyl Lactylate, Monoglycerides and/or Diglycerides, Calcium Peroxide, Calcium Iodate, Datem, Ethoxylated Mono- And Diglycerides, Azodicarbonamide, Enzymes), Calcium Sulfate, Soy Lecithin, Wheat Starch, Topping: Wheat Cuts, Wheat Flakes, Wheat Bran, Flaxseed.

Or what about my favorite “healthy” snack, Fiber One Bars.

Ingredients: Chicory Root Extract, Semisweet Chocolate Chips (sugar, chocolate liquor, cocoa butter, soy lecithin, natural flavor), Whole Grain Oats, Corn Syrup, Rice Flour, Barley Flakes, Sugar, Canola and Palm Kernel Oil, Vegetable Glycerin, High Maltose Corn Syrup, Maltodextrin, Tricalcium Phosphate, Sugarcane Fiber, Soy Lecithin, Cocoa Processed with Alkali, Salt, Fructose, Malt Extract, Caramel Color, Cellulose Gum, Baking Soda, Milk, Natural Flavor, Mixed Tocopherols added to retain freshness.

It’s crazy how many ingredients it requires to make a simple loaf of bread or granola bar. I think we all can agree that neither of these products resemble anything near real food.

But what if you are able to find a product that only contains grains and nothing else? Aren’t grains a great source of complex carbohydrates, fiber, vitamins, and minerals?

Grains are a Poor Source of Carbohydrates.

Dieticians everywhere love to tell you about the benefits of complex carbohydrates that are in so many grain products. The theory behind complex carbohydrates is that because they break down slower in your body, they have less effect on insulin and blood glucose levels. When insulin and blood glucose stay low, your energy stays consistent and body fat is easily utilized as energy.

This is a nice story to tell, but let’s actually dive in and look at the impact grain-based products have on blood sugar and insulin.

The gold standard for measuring insulin and blood sugar impact of any given food is the glycemic index. The higher the glycemic index, the greater the insulin and blood sugar response, and the more likely you are to store fat. Where does wheat bread rank? Near the top with a glycemic index of 71. Right up there with waffles at 76, bagels at 72, cornflakes at 81, and instant oatmeal at 66. To put this into perspective, things like Coca Cola and a Snickers Bar, rank at 58 and 55 respectively. And fruits, such as oranges and peaches, both come in at 42. Courtesy of health.harvard.edu.

Combine this information with our habit of having grain-based products at all of our meals and you have a recipe for chronically elevated blood sugar and insulin levels. Two of the key factors in diabetes, obesity, and aging.

Grains are a Poor Source of Vitamins, Minerals, and Fiber.

Did you know that most of the vitamins, minerals, and fiber that you see in your favorite grain-based products have to be added back after processing just to make it into the finished product? So grain-based products aren’t actually loaded with vitamins and minerals, they just appear that way because of modern science. I don’t know about you, but if someone has to shove a multivitamin into my bread in order to make it healthy, I would rather take the multivitamin on its own and eat something else….like that Snickers Bar.

Gluten is Toxic.

We’ve already mentioned gluten (the protein found in wheat and other grains) for its ability to break down and become addictive, but that’s just the tip of the iceberg for this toxic substance. Gluten is kryptonite for people with Celiac disease. It breaks down the lining of their small intestine which leads to liver disease, dermatitis, diabetes, nerve damage, nutritional deficiencies, and a whole host of autoimmune conditions.

While only a small percentage of the population has Celiac Disease (or at least have been diagnosed), it’s important to note that very few people, if any, are free from the effects of gluten. About 83% of the population develops observable gut inflammation after eating wheat gluten. On top of that, several studies have proven that a greater and greater percentage of the population is developing celiac disease. This isn’t even because our ability to diagnose celiac has gotten better. Even when the standards of diagnosis stay the same, blood samples from today have consistently shown greater instances of Celiac than they did just 20 or 50 years ago.

We tend to think things like acne, IBS, and acid reflux are all part of our genetics, but there is good reason to believe that all of these things are directly caused by the gluten in our diet.

I could go on and on about the dangers of gluten and grains but let me finish by telling you why I personally don’t eat bread anymore.

Why I Don’t Eat Bread.

After seeing all the research, and applying some of my own common sense, it has become pretty clear to me that grain-based products are NOT health foods. They may be dangerous and even deadly for some people, but more importantly, they are not healthy. Does that mean I will never eat another product containing grains for as long as I live? Hell No! I am still going to have the occasional beer, eat the occasional brownie or slice of cake, and I am going to enjoy the hell out of every sip or bite. I will deal with the consequences of those foods later, but I will not feel a single ounce of guilt or remorse as I polish off the entire thing.

A key part of the Superhuman30 is to redefine what constitutes health food, and what constitutes junk food. For me, this means that things like bread, pasta, and cereal never really enter the equation. They definitely don’t fit in the healthy food category, and if I’m going to cheat, I can find a lot tastier things to cheat with. Like chocolate peanut butter ice cream for instance. THAT is something that really sounds worth it to me. Not some turkey sandwich or fiber one cereal.


Best Egg Salad I Have Ever Had!

So many times you come across a recipe in the Paleo world that is just as good as the non-Paleo versions that you used to make.  Things like Paleo Spaghetti and Paleo Brownies are some of the recipes that come to mind right away.  They satisfy the cravings for your favorite dishes just enough so you’re not up all night dreaming about the foods you used to be able to eat.   

But every once in a while you come across a Paleo recipe that’s not only just as good as the original, but it actually blows the original out of the water.  This is one of those recipes!

A few days ago, I stumbled upon the easiest and tastiest egg salad, and I haven’t stopped eating it since. 

Here’s how to make it:

Paleo Egg Salad

Ingredients:

4 Hard Boiled Eggs

1 Hass Avocado

1 Heaping Tablespoon Dijon Mustard

Pinch of Garlic Salt and Pepper

Step 1: Throw all ingredients in a small bowl and mash it together! 

That’s it! It really is that simple. 

f you want to add a little extra kick to the recipe, feel free to play around with some added paprika, jalapenos, or hot sauce, but the recipe above should have a ton of flavor on its own. 

Once you make this recipe, you are going to wonder why you ever used mayonnaise in your egg salad.


Extreme Pantry Makeover

Looking forward to breaking more barriers over the next 30 29 days. 


Forget Eating Better! How to CHEAT Better Over the Holidays!

Ahhh, the Holidays.  There’s no better time for being with family, giving and receiving presents, and of course, EATING.  If you’re like me, this is the time of year when no one in your family seems to care that you want to eat healthy.  And honestly, this is the time of year when I can’t really blame them.   Christmas (or insert holiday of choice) is less about the food itself and more about the memories that come with the food.  And unless you have a serious reaction to gluten or lactose (or some other toxin), I see no reason why you can’t indulge for one or two days. 

The decision to indulge doesn’t have to be a mindless one though.  We can still use a little common sense about what foods are worth it and which ones aren’t.  After all, we don’t want to fill up on crappy candy and store-bought bread, and not have room for grandma’s homemade apple pie and ice cream.  So even though the goal may not be to eat better over the holidays, there are certainly ways to cheat better! (and subsequently limit the damage.)

Here’s how I plan to maximize my holiday experience while simultaneously limiting the damage on my health and body:

1)      Commit to a Morning Fast

Im an expert at ruining Christmas and Thanksgiving dinner by filling up on candy, bread, and boring appetizers before the real food even hits the table.  There’s nothing more disappointing than seeing a bunch of great desserts come out and being so full that you can’t even take another bite (although that never stopped me from eating them).  My solution to this: don’t take a bite of food until dinner.  All those amazing dishes are going to taste extra special if you’re actually hungry when you eat them.  And the decision to not eat is far easier than the decision to eat just a little.  Plan to skip all food the morning of your big holiday feast, and you will not only limit the damage of an all-day binge, but you will enjoy the big dinner that much more. 

2)      Get in a Brief Workout

Take a lesson from Tim Ferriss, author of The 4-Hour Body and upcoming book The 4-Hour Chef, on how to limit the damage of cheat days.  One of Tim’s most notable cheat day endeavors involved him eating 7000 calories in one day and then measuring a lower body fat percentage 48 hours later.  One of his secrets is to use a brief workout to improve his insulin sensitivity before he stuffs his face.  As Tim has proven, it doesn’t have to be anything extreme.  His friends have caught him doing air squats in the bathroom stall of a restaurant just to achieve the result he’s looking for.  You can do the same in your living room or bedroom.  Plan to get a brief 5-10 minute workout of push ups, sit ups, and air squats before you hit the food, and your body will thank you later. 

3)      Only Eat the Foods you REALLY Want

Despite the idea that we are “letting ourselves go” for a few days, doesn’t change the fact that most foods are just not worth cheating for.   You know which ones I’m talking about.  The ones that you eat just because they’re there and they fill you up and prevent you from fully enjoying the foods you REALLY want.  These foods will vary from person to person but a little thought should make the decision fairly easy for you.  Personally, I could care less about bread, stuffing, or lasagna.  They just don’t excite me very much and they fill me up quickly.  But you can be damn sure that I’m going to grab some of my Mom’s cornbread pudding, an extra helping of her cheesy pineapple and Ritz cracker casserole, and a slice of ALL of my favorite pies.  Those are the foods that I truly love and the ones that remind me most of our great family memories together.  Plan to take an extra minute to survey the buffet line before mindlessly throwing things on your plate and you will eat more of the stuff you love, and less of the stuff you don’t care for. 

But most of all, don’t worry about the food!  Just enjoy the time spent with family and friends.  Be thankful for everything you have in your life, and look forward to making more, great holiday memories together. 

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays!


One of my favorite things to do in a new city is to use apps like Yelp or Trip Advisor to find great, lesser known, places to eat.  It makes me feel like Guy Fieri from Diners, Drive-Ins, and Dives in search of the best restaurants that only the locals know about. 

So when I found myself in New Orleans for my friend’s bachelor party 2 weekends ago, the first thing we did is pull out our Iphones and start looking for a place to eat.  And man did we find a good one!

After checking into the hotel and a short walk through Bourbon street, we arrived at our destination, Yo Mama’s.  The name Yo Mama’s may bring up memories of jokes told in middle school, or even that crappy MTV show hosted by Wilmer Valderrama, but I will forever associate the phrase Yo Mama’s with one thing and one thing only; The Peanut Butter and Bacon Burger!

Look at the size of this thing! 

 

I ordered the 1 lb version and decided to pass on the Frisbee-sized bun.  It still wasn’t quite Paleo with the mayo and peanut butter, but that wasn’t going to stop me.  I devoured the entire burger.  It was everything I dreamed of and more!

Fast forward a week later and I just can’t get this damn burger out of my head!  I needed to find a way to recreate this masterpiece in a Paleo context so I could enjoy it more often. 

And this is what I came up with:

Almond Butter and Bacon Bunless Hamburger

Ingredients:

6-8 Strips Bacon (preferably nitrite and nitrate-free)

½ Cup Almond Butter

1.5 lbs Ground Beef (preferably grass-fed)

1 Tomato (sliced)

3 Large Iceberg lettuce wraps

 Directions:

Dice the bacon and then pan fry it until slightly crispy.

Remove the bacon and mix directly into the almond butter.  Leave the bacon grease in the pan for cooking the burgers.

Form the ground beef into patties (I like 3, ½ lb patties) and cook in the bacon grease 3-5 minutes on each side, or until the middle is cooked to desired redness. 

Transfer the burger into one of the lettuce wraps and top with several spoonfuls of the bacon and almond butter mixture.  Top with sliced tomatoes and prepare to be amazed!


Healthy Fast Food: Microwaved Sweet Potato!

I love fast food!

No, I’m not talking about Big Macs and Super-sized Fries that you get from the McDonalds drive-thru (although those can be tasty). 

 

I’m talking about real food. The kind that takes very little time and preparation to cook, is loaded with nutrition, and tastes amazing!

My new favorite fast-food is microwaved sweet potatoes. 

If you’ve ever wasted hours trying to peel and boil sweet potatoes, you will love me for this recipe.  The entire process takes less than 10 minutes, and it tastes unbelievable! 

The best part about it is the sweet potato does all the work for you.  The outer skin actually retains the moisture of the potato as it microwaves, so it steams the inside of the potato to perfection every single time. 

Here’s how to do it:

Ingredients:

1 Medium-Large Sweet Potato (despite what some people may tell you, size DOES matter. The sweet potato will cook best at the medium size you see below.)

 

3/4 TBSP Coconut Oil (Butter or Macadamia oil work great as well)

 

1 Tsp Cinnamon (Or all-spice if you want to get a little crazy)

 

5-7 Pecans

1)  Rinse the sweet potato to clean off any loose dirt from the skin

2)  Using a fork, stab the sweet potato 8-10 times to puncture through the skin (this will allow just enough steam out to prevent the sweet potato from exploding in your microwave.)

 

3)  Place on a microwaveable-safe plate or dish, and microwave on high for 6-8 minutes.  (My dorm-room-quality microwave takes 7-8 minutes but I’m sure it could be done in less time in most standard microwaves.)

4)  Take out of the microwave and allow it to sit for 2-3 minutes.  The sweet potato will be very hot so don’t bother trying to cut into it right away.  Also, the steam that remains trapped inside the skin will continue to cook the middle of the sweet potato to perfection.

5)  After its cooled down, cut the sweet potato in half length-wise with a knife.  Then use a fork to scrape the orangey goodness out of the skin.  This should only take a few seconds since the skin should be peeling away from the potato.  (Note: If the potato is still hard in the middle, you will need to cook it for longer next time.  Once you slice the potato in half, cooking it more in the microwave will only make the potato dry, instead of steaming it like before.)

 

 

6)  Separate and discard the skin from the rest of the potato and add the Coconut oil and Cinnamon.  Use the back of the fork to mash all 3 ingredients together, until you have a consistency similar to mashed potatoes.  (Note: The sweet potato can also be eaten right out of the skin, but I prefer the smooth flavor that comes from proportionally mixing in the cinnamon and coconut oil.)

7)  Chop or use your hands to break up the pecans and spread across the top of the mashed sweet potatoes. (you can even microwave the pecans for a minute on their own for a nice oven-roasted flavor!)

8)  Pair with a delicious steak and cauliflower rice and enjoy!



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